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Many plants which are biennial (flower & set seed only in the second year of growth) speed up & behave like annuals in a hot summer.
There is very little space left in the garden which receives enough sun to enable Annuals to grow successfully. The result of four years of drought, and Level 4 water restrictions is that the seeds of many shallow-rooted self-sown annuals no longer germinate. Since shading the house, wild life habitat, and privacy, were the main purposes of the original design, this does not concern me. I was able to grow a wide variety of annuals while the trees and shrubs were maturing, but the character of the garden is now fully developed, and the desired habitat modification has been achieved.
Full text of my article, published in edited form in 'Permaculture International Journal' # 54.
Only once, in an Australian Herbal, have I seen a caution against the fine hairs on borage leaves. Most other references suggest using the leaves in salads, but I think you would end up with a very sore mouth. Probably they would be safer cooked as greens.
On the other hand, the beautiful flowers have the same cucumber flavour as the leaves, and can be safely used as a garnish or in salads. Traditionally the flowers are floated on bowls of fruit punch for decoration.
I like to collect the newly opened flowers early in the morning, just after the dew has dried, but before the bees have taken the nectar. (Of course I always leave a few for the bees!) They make a wonderful tea, with a slight sweetness. I try to dry a year's supply during each season. 'Borage for Courage' is an old saying, and the tea can be used to good effect to allay anxiety.
Tall, beautiful and stately, if it deigns to grow erect, but just as likely to sprawl along the ground if the mood takes it. Either way I would not like to be without a few borage plants in my garden.
Also known as the English or Pot Marigold, the 'Marybud' of Shakespeare's song, calendula has been a cottage herb for centuries. It should not be confused with the African Marigold or Tagetes, which is irritating to the skin and a powerful nematode repellant.
The petals are used as a spice in egg dishes and salads, while a strong tea made from the flowers gives golden tints to the hair.
A soothing ointment is also made from the flowers and a poultice of mashed fresh petals provides emergency first aid for cuts, scrapes and small burns.
They also make a good cut flower, lasting well, and look their best in a terracotta pot.
Very early in the development of the design, I think it was in 1989, I planted some celery seedlings. While they didn't produce thick succulent stalks like those grown with lots of water and fertiliser, they did provide me with texture and flavour in soups and stir-frys. In the second year (like parsley, celery is a biennial) they flowered, and I let them go to seed. Now there are few years in which celery seedlings fail to appear.
I don't water them much, using them as a herb rather than a vegetable, and saving the mature seed for a medicinal tea. It's good for High Blood Pressure, and Arthritis.
Fennel is so versatile that every urban garden should have some. But take care that it doesn't escape & become a weed.
The bulbous cultivated type is as easy to grow as the wild herb, and comes in an attractive bronze, as well as bright green.
But don't sow it near new seedlings, for the roots exude a growth inhibitor.
The feathery foliage is chopped when young and fine and added to sauces for fish, while the fleshy stem is rather like celery, but with a faint aniseed flavour. It can be used fresh and crisp in salads, or cooked and served in a white sauce. The roots are used rather like parsnip, but are not so tasty. Let some plants flower and form seed-heads - the flowers are sweet and hot - individual flowers make a tasty snack or garnish, while sections of the juicy flower-stems can be chewed for their sweetness and flavour - the juice is reputed to be an appetite suppressant. The green seeds are hot and spicy, an unusual addition to rice dishes, sauces or curries, while the dried seeds make a lovely tea which aids the digestion.
Harvest the seed-heads when most of the seeds have ripened, but before they start to fall, or you will be overwhelmed with seedlings next year! Put the heads in a paper bag to complete ripening.
Keep the dry seeds in an airtight container, and keep the strong flexible flower stems to use as a natural substitute for dental floss. The dried large stems make good lolly sticks, while the green stems can be shredded and added to their brew by paper-makers - the long fibres make a strong fine product, while adding a faint green tint and a delicate scent to the paper.
While there is not enough sun for more than the odd plant of proper garlic, the wild variety grows up quickly each year once leaves have fallen in winter. I am fortunate in having a bed where I can confine the bulbs - if not contained, they will quickly spread, and are difficult to eradicate. Though attractive to look at, rather like a small white bluebell, the odour does not make them popular in most gardens.
However when grown in good soil the plants are large and succulent, I cook them like small leeks.
Here in South Australia they have colonised large areas of grassland and bush, and is a real pest to dairy farmers, because it taints the milk. I would not recommend it be grown unless in a carefully managed urban garden like my own.
NASTURTIUMS Photo - 35Kb
This bright wonderful plant will sprawl, climb, or drape, and flowers best in poor soils and dryish situations. Nasturtiums do well in window boxes and hanging baskets. The large seed germinates readily, and every part of the plant is edible, with a fresh peppery tang. Use the flowers in salads, as a garnish, or filled with soft cheese as an appetiser. Use the leaves in salads and sandwiches, and pickle the immature seeds to use as a substitute for capers.
The flowers also cut well, and a pot of blooms in mixed colours is one of the simplest and most cheerful flower arrangements.
Being a member of the cabbage family, it attracts Cabbage Butterflies, and a few planted near your cabbages are very useful decoys. It could almost certainly be used as a self-sown green manure, and in some years the dried plants dry almost like pea-straw, & can be used as mulch.
In post-war London, primary school children were encouraged to grow easy-to-care for plants. Each winter we were given a precious daffodil bulb to take home and plant in a pot, and each spring a packet of 3 nasturtium seeds. At flowering time, we brought our pots to school for a flower show, and certificates were awarded for the best blooms. Sometimes the daffodils let us down, but the nasturtiums never!
Drought seems to have little effect on the germination of nasturtiums either in the garden or the lane. They are quite extraordinary!
PARSLEY - Hamburg
This tall-growing variety of parsley has much more flavour than the curled sort, and is generally regarded as a vegetable as much as a herb. Another prolific self-seeder, there are other good reasons for letting some plants flower and go to seed. The flowers have a delicious perfume. They also attract many beneficial insects and entice carrot fly away from your carrots, much as nasturtiums are more attractive to cabbage butterfly than cabbages.
The root can be cooked and eaten when young. It tastes not unlike parsnip, but is so strongly flavoured I prefer to use it as a soup vegetable.
Parsley is rich in Vitamins A and C, and iron, and a handful of freshly chopped parsley added to any savoury dish just before serving greatly increases nutritional value as well as adding flavour & colour.
During the driest of the drought years only one plant survived and grew to maturity. The following year I had a forest! Parsley became my staple vegetable until late January. Wonderful!
Annual poppies of all kinds are easy to grow, and all produce lots of seed which, as well as ensuring next season's crop, can be used in cooking. The young foliageof wild poppies is used as a salad green in many countries.
Another drought survivor, although without water they go to seed early in the season.
Also called 'Oyster Plant', because the cooked root tastes something like oysters, this easy to grow and attractive purple daisy is related to dandelion and chicory.
All of the plant is edible.The narrow grey-green leaves (it's very easy to mistake the young seedlings for grass, and so to pull them up by mistake!) can be used in salads or sandwiches, while the root, though not large, is tasty when boiled. It can also be roasted and when freshly ground makes a sweet beverage not unlike chocolate in flavour.
The seed-heads form dandelion-like 'clocks', but are much larger, sturdy, and coffee-coloured.
SILVERBEET aka Swiss chard
I prefer this easily grown biennial to spinach. The stalks make a separate vegetable dish, especially good with a white sauce, while the large leaves are versatile greens. Roll the leaves lengthways to cut into fine shreds for salads. Don't overcook for a hot vegetable. And try tossing them in a vinagrette or french dressing while still hot, then chilling to serve as a tasty and unusual salad. (You can treat many common green vegetables this way - useful in winter when salad greens are in short supply).
Silver beet tolerates a fair degree of shade, can be obtained with stalks in various shades of red or yellow, as well as white, making it an attractive addition to the garden. It self-seeds prolifically.
Anyone with a water garden, however small, can grow this well-known iron-rich and tasty plant. Use it in salads, sandwiches, and as a garnish with a bit of 'bite'. Here in Adelaide it is a winter and spring green, dying back when it gets hot, but re-seeding itself ready for the autumn when the little seedlings appear.
I now grow mine in a large pot, which lives inside a larger container of water.
This season I tranferred a seedling to a self-watering pot. It has survived so far, kept in semi-shade, and will hopefully set seed for next year.
The annuals I plant vary from year to year and season to season. Some years there is a particularly good supply of self-sown annuals, some years look like being particularly dry, and I am always conscious that there is a water shortage.
Since watering with a cup and bucket is strenuous and time-consuming, in some year's when I have been unwell, or particularly busy, I have planted very few Annuals.
Those I try to get in every year are Basil, Broad Beans, and "shot" onions.
This year (2010/11) I've been experimenting with using a number of the old black recycling bins in lieu of a raised bed, especially for root vegetables.
The annual basil will not germinate until the weather is quite warm. I usually grow it in containers and move it around to keep it in the sun. Requires rich soil and should never be allowed to dry out. The plant often lasts well into winter if sheltered from frost, but really IS annual and does not perennialise.
Though it takes a little time and trouble to grow, there is no substitute for fresh green basil leaves, and I use them in many dishes.
Unlike most herbs, including onions, which lose their flavour with long cooking, the flavour of basil intensifies with cooking. This makes it one of the most useful, as well as one of the most flavoursome herbs in the garden. It also makes a refreshing and stimulating tea.
There are two perennial varieties, but both are frost tender and need full sun. And they just don't have the same flavour or texture as the annual sort.
BEANS - broad and climbing
To get a good crop of broad beans, I sow two crops, one in late summer and another in spring. If you pinch out the tops when the plants reach about 60cm or 2 feet in height, you will get more flowers and pods. Steam the tops as a green vegetable. And yes! that delicious perfume does come from the bean flowers.
I try to dry and save some seed for next year.
Climbing beans do well in some years, but mostly the garden gets too shady for a good crop. In some years I have grown Lima beans, Purple King, and ordinary green beans, with varying results.
Beetroot have done very well in the new deep pots. The tops also provide delicious greens.
I admit to buying seedlings, which I sometimes grow in the ground, and sometimes in deep pots.
Once the first head has been harvested, the plants produce numerous small florets for the rest of the season. These are are delicious, and need to be harvested regularly, or the plant will go to seed. I have on a number of occasions found plants which are not allowed to go to seed will survive the summer, and again begin producing small florets as soon as the weather cools. I kept one such crop going for three years. So maybe it should really be on the Perennial list?!
These I always grow in deep pots. They need light to germinate, and plenty of sun for good growth, so they need to be moved to the sunny spots as these move round the garden through the year.
They must not be allowed to dry out. I only get medium-sized roots using this method, but they are quite sufficient for my needs.
Most years I get a good crop. If no self-sown plants appear in the cooler weather, I sow seed saved from the previous year. I use the green leaves a lot, & pinch out any flower stems that form early in the season. They quickly produce more flowers & set seed once the weather gets hot.
For good crops which can be harvested and stored over winter, garlic needs to be planted, nurtured and harvested annually. But each year a few plants appear, leftovers from the larger crops I grew when the garden was young and hot!
The milder flavoured Elephant Garlic doesn't mind shade, and has a large and most attractive flower.
PEAS - climbing
I usually grow sugar, or snow peas (mange tout), so the pods can be eaten too. Planted against my back fence after the grape vines have been pruned, and in a tub in the front yard when the almond has lost it's leaves, in some years I get good crops, but whether or not I get a regular feed from them, they nourish the soil, and look attractive, with their purple or white flowers.
Pumpkins - Queensland Blue, Golden Nugget, and Butternut
I start these in pots, then transplant, and usually manage to get about a dozen pumpkins from the vines which ramble through the trees.
Each of these varieties develop a really tough skin if cured properly in the sun after cutting from the vine with a section of vine attached to the stalk. Properly 'cured' they will store in a dry place for up to one year.
Back to Vines and Shrubs
Long-rooted white radishes grow almost anywhere, and I pop the seeds in any small space which gets some sun during the day. Best as a cool weather crop. The tops can be used as greens. Small roots I use in salad, while the large ones can be used in stir-fry or soups. They can also be grated and marinated as a relish, or pickled
Much easier to grow and less demanding than onions.
Plant the bulblets in late summer, and harvest the crop when the foliage dies down. Dry and store like garlic. Though I often 'bandicoot' just one or two bulbs from each plant earlier in the season.
Onions which have started to sprout, or which have mildewed, can be planted - leave the necks above the soil - and will soon reward you with a crop of green leaves, which can be snipped for many weeks, and used in salads, sandwiches and stir-frys.
Plant List - Trees ....... Vines & Shrubs.......Perennials .......Biennials and Annuals
Plants Grown in the past
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